Open thread: Childhood obesity

I really hit a nerve with my Framing Obesity post. Here’s your chance to share your opinions and experience and discuss causes and solutions. Please be sensitive about your comments (I should know – sorry).

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49 thoughts on “Open thread: Childhood obesity

  1. Clearly, there are lots of kids out there who weigh too much … either from eating too much, not being physically active enough, or both. But equally troubling are the thin kids who subsist on diets of sugary snack foods, processed foods, and refined carbs. I believe it takes a village to raise a healthy child, so until we all take part in changing the current food and fitness scenario in this country, we won't make a dent in the problem. My goal is to provide busy parents with nutritious, kid-friendly recipes and lots of tips for getting "picky" eaters to try healthy new foods. Parents need tools, and my role in this "village" is to provide them with advice that's easy to follow and easy to incorporate into their daily lives.

  2. Liz, thanks for your comment! I've enjoyed cruising your blog. I especially enjoyed your post on teens and nutrition. I agree that without tools for parents, kids won't be eating nutritiously healthy meals. I'll definitely be using your site often!

  3. I grew up as an overweight child, I suffer as an adult with being overweight. My parents never pushed us to eat healthy. We ate what we could afford and if hotdogs and pastas were cheap we would eat those an awful lot. And I wasn't a very active child either. We couldnt' afford to put us in any sports or activities. Sure we played outside, but just playing out side didn't do the jutice as sports do. Everywhere where I grew up you had to pay for sports or any activity the schools don't offer it. As an adult I'm learning now how to eat healthy and stray away from the foods that aren't healthy and trying to lead a more active life. Not just for me but for my children who will understand what healthy foods are about and what good it is to play outside and play in sports. They need to make things easier for the popluation, its easy to drive through somewhere and get something unhealthy as to cooking a healthy meal at home. And its easier to plop a kid in front of the TV instead of driving them to soccer practice.

  4. It's all right to strike a nerve with a post, Mrs. Q — in fact, it's for the best! It gets people's gears turning. We all have to stand back a little bit and take it all in — the parts we're scared of, the parts that offend us, the parts that we disagree with — or we'll never be able to find a solution.

    Personally, I can't tell you enough how much your blog has affected me, or how much thinking and reading I've done about this issue, in no small part because of your work. I was an overweight child, and I have so many struggles related to it now even though I am an adult at a healthy (perhaps even low) weight.

    I feel for all kids, and I feel for all parents. The point has been made over and over that kids can't be held responsible for what they eat, and I agree with that wholeheartedly. I want to find a way to teach EVERYBODY. Not just parents, not just the folks who work in the school-food industry, but EVERYBODY. All people have the right to be healthy.

    In any event, thank you so much for continuing on here, and for taking one for the team at lunchtime every day. I wish I could sneak you a fresh apple sometimes when I see those fruit cups. Yuck.

  5. One thing I think people need to realize is that it's OK to make small changes. In fact, I think it's preferable when you are talking about kids & food!

    People complain that kids don't like healthy food but fail to realize it's because they've grown accustomed to the highly processed stuff so real food doesn't taste right to them. Many people, children included, who have been on predominantly real food for any length of time can no longer tolerate the taste of junk food (or if they can, it often makes them feel bad if eaten in large quantities).

    If you want to make changes, start small. Start with something like whole grains. Begin by mixing your favorite sugared cereals with a similar unsweetend version (say, Honey Nut Cheerios & plain Cheerios or Frosted Flakes and corn flakes) in a 50/50 ratio. Slowly decrease the amount of the sugared cereal over the course of a month or two until your kids are completely on the unsweetened cereal. Start with half & half sandwiches (1 slice whole wheat, 1 slice white) until your child is used to WW and then switch over to 100% WW. Start with 50/50 brown/white rice or WW/regular pasta and gradually increase the amount of unrefined grains as your family becomes used to the taste & texture.

    Cut back on the amount of sugar you use in baking and try substituting WW flour for white and applesauce for part of the oil. With vegetables, you might have to take a different approach like starting with small servings every day and gradually increasing the quantity served over time. If you take small steps, you will gradually change your family's palate with the least amount of trauma.

    In terms of obesity, we are to the point now that it's no longer an issue of appearance. It's a serious health crisis and a major hindrance to a normal lifestyle. Not only are people going to live shorter lives, but they are going to be severely limited in the types of experiences available to them due to the stress on their bodies of carrying around the extra weight. If young children were developing lung cancer from smoking cigarettes, we'd all be horrified and mobilized to solve the problem. Of course we don't want to stigmatize children because of their appearance but at the same time, we absolutely have to get this problem under control so that both as individuals and as a nation we can realize our full potential.

  6. I'm overweight. No, I'm obese. Truth is, I did do something to get here. Growing up in the 70s, my parents had different choices to present to me then when they were kids. Processed, packaged choices. I doubt they gave too much thought to how those weren't as good as the choices they had when they were kids. But, they did holler at me for trying to snack too often. And, I didn't even become overweight until my parents weren't around to help me make better choices.

    So, my parents did their best, and I got myself obese all by myself.

    So, I've read the internet and I've thought about food, and I'm doing the best I can for my own kids. And, I hope when I cut 'em loose in 10 or 15 years, they don't get all their nutrition at McDonald's, and I hope they look at labels and listen to their bodies.

    We live in a nation where we have a lot of choices, many of them crap. We have to make good and informed choices. We just do.

  7. Quality and quantity matter equally when it comes to nutrition. Finding out how many calories you actually need is essential to good health and maintaining a healthy weight.

  8. Anyone who "storms off" announcing that you've lost a reader just doesn't want to admit that you, rightly, struck a nerve. It's going to take a lot of striking at nerves before things change- for the good of our children and our world! Don't get discouraged by some people's inability to show maturity. Keep writing how you feel and what you think, and if they don't like it, they can leave!

  9. I was also morbidly obese just 2 years ago. I weighed 285 lbs and now weigh 145. I did it! No one else. Not my parents. Not my siblings. It was me! I lied about where my lunch money was being spent – and of course I was too cool to pack lunch. In high school I was depressed and ate more. And ate, and ate, and ate. I never stopped eating. When I was sad I ate. When I was mad I ate. Hell, I even ate when I was happy. Whatever the case may be …I chose what I put into my mouth. (and I'm talking about my adult life – I was chunky as a kid but nothing anyone had to be concerned about) I became morbidly obese. 2 years ago I had Gastric Bypass and it has HELPED, but food and me will never be friends.

  10. We've been fighting for years to turn the tide in a healthy favor for our kids. Trouble is, need new thinking and the power of the media to truly engage and mobilize an effort. Let's all think "outside the box", because "inside the box" just isn't working.

    Keep up the fight and the great posts. -GH

  11. Anyone who argues that it is cheaper to eat crap is full of it.

    I am the most fiscally irresponsible and undisciplined person in the country.

    When all of my friends were having that ridiculous stomach surgery, the idea frightened me to the point that I weaned myself off of soda and fast food, then pre-fab and processed crap. I have always walked on my break at work, only, all of a sudden I was losing weight…AND eating way more than I used to…AND saving bucketloads of money!

    After only a year and a half of patience and a few backslides I dropped around 120 pounds. I did not even notice it was going away. I DID, however, notice that I went from about $150 per week on food and drink to about $20. At the time that was much more important to me than the weight!

    If I can do it – anyone can. Really. It was just a matter of re-prioritizing and patience.

  12. "reprioritizing" is the necessary approach to improving one's meals. we reprioritized our spending so that we could afford to buy healthy food. cut the cable TV, reduced toy intake, buy used items, and so on. we even cut our dining out budget by taking leftovers to work. when my child starts school, he will take his lunch; we are blessed with a decent lunch at daycare – fresh, increasingly organic, and vegetarian (though i think they could use less soy).

    these preschoolers love their veggies. apparently though our preschool is an oddity in town by now serving chicken nuggets or burgers, etc. instead these kids get veggie pizza, buttered noodles, scrambled eggs, and – my child's favorite – chana masala (chickpeas with tomato sauce and cumin spices on jasmine rice).

    the problem of school lunches doesn't begin in the public schools… it actually raises its head earlier in the daycares and preschools.

  13. I was never an active child, and that probably contributed to my being overweight. And, while my parents always provided more or less healthful foods for me to eat, I had the tendency to overeat. Therefore I propose these two solutions to childhood obesity:

    1. More tailored school P.E. programs. Now, let me say this first. I don't think sports are under-emphasized in schools. On the list of budget cuts, sports is usually the last to go. And I would ALWAYS rather see a child be able to attend the school library than join the football team. P.E. is important in its own right nonetheless. But, as a child, I HATED P.E. It's not just that I wasn't active enough. It's that in P.E. we didn't do activities that were interesting enough to me. I just didn't care about being picked last for baseball or being forced to run laps while the coach nodded off. What I did enjoy was the gymnastics and the jump ropes. So why not let kids in P.E. split up into groups and do the activity they love best? I think kids would be more into getting fit that way. Obviously, it might not be possible to have a group of kids play baseball while one lone child runs laps on the track. But I'm sure with a little ingenuity schools could figure this one out.

    2. Parents should buy healthful foods anyway. I understand being poor. I'm pretty poor right now. But I still have enough money to buy fruits and veggies and tofu. Really. If you budget your money wisely, it's not that much more expensive than ordering a pizza or eating out. (Plus, think of the doctor bills you'll save later on when your kid doesn't have diabetes or health problems due to obesity.) And for parents who "don't have time" to pack a healthful lunch for their child? That takes, what, 5 minutes? Seriously. If a parent spends a few minutes before bed making their child's lunch, they won't have to worry about it in the morning. It doesn't take much effort to make a sandwich and put a banana and some nuts into a lunchbox. Better yet, if the child is old enough, the parent can delegate that responsibility to the child. Then the child can learn to be mindful of what they eat.

  14. I couldn't agree more that the issue should be focused on "nourishment" more than obesity. Obesity is just one symptom (and happens to be a very visible symptom) of a fundamentally flawed food system. There are sooo many children and adults suffering from nutrition-related diseases who manage to maintain a "healthy" weight. We are all built a little differently; some of us will get fat from eating garbage, others will develop asthma, allergies, or chronic GI problems; still others may develop nervous system disorders. The root cause of poor nutrition is the same. I wrote a blog about this relative to the First Lady's childhood obesity crusade in January:

    Keep up the good work Mrs. Q.!

  15. This is less of a comment than a question: People have agreed that kids aren't responsible for what they eat, but at what point do they begin to take on some of that responsibility? Obviously no one can blame a 2-year-old because he didn't ask for broccoli instead of a hot dog, but at the same time, I don't think it's fair to blame parents because their teenager buys chips and soda at the store every day after school. Somewhere in between, assuming the parents have done a reasonable job of making healthy food available at home, some of the responsibility for food decisions has to transition to the child.

  16. Let's start at profiling obesity and then we can shift focus to how to correct the situation. First, people need to be awakened!
    Food should be about health, but about celebrating what has been grown in the ground, fed in the fields. Somewhere we lost track of that.
    Our culture is so inured in immediate gratification which leads them directly to the fast food stores and processed food aisles.
    Not only is the First Lady focusing on obesity, but she's focusing on growing a garden. This used to be a country filled with small farms and gardens in the backyards of homes.
    So, by pointing out that a large percentage of our population is obese, and then by planting a garden on the White House grounds, the First Lady is making a statement and a start.

  17. And by the way, Mrs. Q, you are one of the heroes of this movement! Thank you!

  18. The point I'd like to address is in response to everyone who says anything along the lines of: parents should pack their kids lunch; parents should be making healthier foods instead of opting for easier, time-saving, "T.V. Dinner" type meals; people should try to buy the better ingredients, it's not that much more expensive!
    Unfortunately, depending on your income, it IS that much more expensive. To get the full picture of what it can be like living on minimum wage–as a lot of people do–I recommend reading "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich. But…there often ISN'T time to take five minutes to make a lunch. If there isn't a grocery store within walking distance, you either have to have a car (expensive) or have reliable public transportation–which there frequently isn't. So some people might not have access to all those fruits and vegetables. And, depending on where they live, they might not have the stove, microwave, refrigerator or utensils required to make it.
    Throw in rent and utilities, and suddenly, $120 for a week's worth of groceries for your family is a lot to shell out in one go, compared to maybe $12 for several microwave dinners that night (to refer back to another post.)

    My point is, sometimes it isn't just that parents are lazy, or that people don't know the nutrition (or lack thereof) in their food, or are too stingy. There are so, so many other factors that play into this one problem about food–and economy is a big one for many, many people.

    To end on a more positive note: Mrs. Q., thank you so much for your blog and for raising awareness, and for reminding us kids that some adults do recognize that the stuff on those styrofoam lunch trays is semi-crap. Even if I can't always change what I eat, at least I am now definitely more conscious about WHAT I'm eating.

  19. I think Kathy brings up a valid point that for some parents it's not laziness its a lack of understanding combined with income restrictions and even geography. And that just solidifies in my mind WHY schools need to have better lunches to balance out the other processed foods kids are eating at home.

    Schools are more than institutions of learning, they are (in some ways) surrogate parents, particularly when it comes to making sure all the kids get a meal. If more schools started serving better foods, parents wouldn't need to worry so much about packing their kids lunch on a budget while short on time in the morning.

  20. It's not a "food" problem, it's a "parent" problem.

    A lot of people have kids (a full time job) when their lives are already hectic as hell. It's insane.

    Maybe if people "don't have time to make lunches" or feel it's easier to sit the kid have a hour of TV instead signing up for a daily soccer practice…maybe you shouldn't have kids yet.

    No matter how much they say they "hate" you sometimes, you really are your kids biggest influence in lifestyle.

    If life is going to fast, or you live an unhealthy lifestyle, you shouldn't have kids yet, because your little kids only eat what you give them and only go outside as much as you encourage them to. Just don't complain about child obesity if you serve grease pizza for dinner while they watch the television in their room.

  21. There's a lot to say about this topic, but I just want to focus on one point.

    I wish people would stop using the term "due to obesity," because obesity is just a symptom, not a cause. Obesity is not the *cause* of anything; not eating appropriately for your body and not being active in the right way for your body does.

    If one focuses on weight and fatness, they are stigmatizing the body and reinforcing the media's standards of thin being better and more healthy when this is not the case. Plenty of thin people get diabetes and have other problems that most people like to say are "due to obesity" when they aren't.

    People need to get away from blaming weight and start realizing it's our messed up preservative-focused, "global" food system and our messed up car-oriented cities that are making everyone, at every weight, unhealthy.

    I liked your previous post because you recognized some of this.

    Our culture has so shamed fat people that it has basically brainwashed anyone who *has* lost a lot of weight into thinking that 1) they are automatically healthier now, & 2) it is because they lost the weight (instead of being because they changed their views and habits surrounding food & activity).

    I wish people would take all talk of weight out of the conversations at all, since it really has nothing much to do with the topic. It's the government and the media who are reinforcing that it does, with things like focusing on obesity instead of focusing on true health.

    I could cite plenty of research that shows "overweight" people tend to live longer than much thinner people, or that BMI is an absolutely ridiculous measurement tool, or even my best friend's case: she is 5'4", over 250 pounds, and she recently had a doctor's visit where the doctor, try as he might, could not find a single unhealthy factor about her, including her having perfect blood pressure and cholesterol.

    I appreciated your skepticism in the focus on obesity, even if ultimately you had to say that any focus on getting healthier was better than nothing.

  22. It strikes me as essential that we teach our children well. Not only is it an issue of education, but also of food choice. Our children for the most part are not the food purchasers, whether at home or through a school lunch program, they are simply consumers.

    While not every family has the same opportunity to teach healthy habits, for example, if the parents did not have healthy role models, but it seems to me that the federal government and state boards of education could do a better job of becoming part of the solution. The mandated school lunch/breakfast/snack program is a great starting point – here the BoEs can become better purchasers, demand better more whole product and provide a healthier diet to their consumers. Also, health education should not be overlooked as an opportunity to provide kids with knowledge about a healthy diet.

    The biggest hurdle I see in Americans tackling the obesity epidemic is not that we can't, but that we won't. Ultimately obesity is a glut of calories consumed. For those of us that have racked up a surplus of calories removing the stored fat is hard and painful. Making good choices is not easy once you have created a problem for yourself. However, it can be done. I applaud every person who is actively loosing excess weight & trying to retrain their idea of healthy. Keep going and know that making the right choices, consuming no more than what you need – in a balanced diet is the best gift we can give ourselves and our kids. Defeat is not really an option on this one. We all need to do our best to make a change.

  23. I really REALLY admire what you are doing with this blog. And yes, some people's tootsies got stepped on in your other post.

    I ate school lunches most of my life. At home, we lived close to the food we ate there. My parents ALWAYS cooked dinner, we had a huge vegetable garden, and typically in a year got wild game as well. So outside of school, my nutritional and caloric needs were met.

    As an active athlete, student and band member I am saying here, as I have said since I was in school, the school lunches are entirely inadequate for growing kids, let alone ACTIVE growing kids. They were the same lunches we had in elementary school, middle school and right up into high school. The same servings. The same foods. The only difference was the salad which you could get INSTEAD of the hot lunch, and it honest to god consisted mostly of iceberg lettuce and dressing.

    I sometimes got to school at 6:30 am for some activity or other (when I was in varsity basketball, practice was at the same time as play rehearsal, so those two years the director did four one act plays, and whichever play *I* liked best was the one to rehearse in the morning. Cool, na?) and if there was a game or other extra practice or what have you, I'd be lucky to get home before 11pm. I've been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in the US, and I have to say that the menu's have gotten WORSE, not better!!

    All my life until recently (within the last 12 years…gods has it been that long since I started getting sick?) I was active. I was active in sports and marching band and symphonic band, plays, forensics competitions; after graduation, and outside of school I chose heavy physical laboring jobs, working on horse farms, night stocking in a major grocery chain and doing judo in my spare time. Until I got sick, I was never fat. I THOUGHT I was fat because I was so much bigger than everyone else and because all teenage girls think they're too fat or too skinny. Now my fat keeps me out of the hospital because I have weight to lose, but it didn't get there because of school lunches. I'll be honest, looking back on the lunches, and how hungry I was before and after I'm honestly amazed that anyone could get fat on them simply because there's just not that much to them!!


    cont…apparently I'm long winded…

  24. cont…


    I had a better base to start from. Lots of kids I knew didn't and don't. I believe there's less of an obesity epidemic than there is a serious nutritional deficit in this country. The school lunches you show turn my stomach and make me glad I'm homeschooling.

    Because I'm sick and I don't eat alot anymore, my daughter doesn't always get home cooked meals, but she eats things other kids won't touch; brussels sprouts, fish in actual fillets without breading, spinach which has been an almost decade long battle of the "you have to try one bite every time it's served" rule. And she abides by rules when we go out to eat too. She can't have chicken nuggets and fries if we're at a middle eastern restaurant for example, or a hamburger if we're eating mexican. And this is a child with serious texture issues. (She has high functioning Aspergers Syndrome).

    I've probably gone off on an irrelevant tangent by now. But when I saw kids actually spitting out food on The Food Revolution I was appalled. Honestly. And I'm fat, and I'll never again diet or exercise with the intention of losing weight, I just want to be healthy. Hopefully someday I'll be able to eat the food I grew up on and love. And I'll be able to do judo or even just take a walk. Right now I can't. And it isn't because I'm too fat (cause I weigh considerably less than I did when my treatment was working) it's because I'm too sick.

    I don't believe in the "obesity epidemic." What I do believe is that we are growing a generation or three of children who have no idea WHERE their food comes from, and that nuggets aren't an actual part of an actual chicken. We have outdated nutritional guidelines in our schools, and a serious lack of education regarding the care and feeding of our bodies, especially growing bodies.

    Seriously, the food you showcase gives me heartburn just looking at it. Though I also confess that I have searched far and wide and I still have yet to find the kind of mayonnaise that my school used. I'd kill to get my hands on some of it. Because if I'm gonna have fries, I'm GONNA dip 'em in mayo and ketchup and without the right mayo it's just…not right.

    I'm nothing if not honest. *sheepish* I sure did love that mayo.

    Anyway…thank you for what you're doing. Our school system needs changing in so many ways, and fundamentally good nutrition so so essential to learning and growing.

    Thank you. I'll stop rambling now.

  25. Thank you so much for all who commented. I wanted to say that one reason why I like having an open thread is that I learn from you. Thank you. All of you had great points, but I liked it when Kristy mentioned how thin people in our society are automatically viewed as being healthier when it's not necessarily the case. We have to refocus on nutrition and not on obesity so that thin people are included and "fat" people are not stigmatized.

  26. I loved your framing obesity post, so much in fact, my boss and I discussed it for probably half an hour.
    Although weight, size and activity is a huge part of the equation, nutrition is what I believe to be the most important element. If you're 5-10 pounds over weight because you eat tons of fruit, veggies, lean meats and maybe too much brown rice and pasta. In MY opinion you are more healthy then the 5-10 pound under weight child who lives exclusively on pizza and french fries.

  27. Hello! Love the blog. I'd just like to add something from my personal experiences that a lot of people, even health professionals, tend to overlook: obesity has many causes, not all of them remotely related to food. I grew up as an overweight child and am an "obese" adult…but not because of food. I have lifelong chronic severe illnesses whose symptoms and prescribed treatments simply make maintaining a "normal" weight next to impossible, while als making most exercise dangerous. All the fresh, unprocessed food in the world and a fancy diet and exercise plan are not going to help me lose weight.

    So, it's a constant source of frustration to be "obese" because of things beyond your control, and have friends, family, classmates, coworkers, strangers, and even doctors assume you're a glutton who eats nothing but junk food, has diabetes, bad cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and generally lives an unhealthy lifestyle. I realize that food is a big part of the issue, but it's not the only one.

  28. Thank you for addressing that post. It seemed to me, and those I know who read also read it, like you were complaining about the First Lady choosing obesity as her main focus. I myself suffer from anorexia at 5'8 and 97lbs, and have trouble gaining even 0.2lbs for fear of gaining weight and becoming obese. My family has many obese and morbidly obese member, one of the heaviest is only 17. I believe that if I wasn't worried from age 4 of this fate, I may have learned to value other things and not focus soo much on food and what size I am, but rather on being happy and healthy. I think that if there was not an obesity epidemic, the topic of weight wouldn't have its own section in book stores, websites, its own website, and be on at least one magazine cover a week. Tackling obesity could also reduce body insecurity, lowering the ED (eating disorder) epidemic in North America.

  29. i was thinking about the angered readers. (also the secretly smug, but quiet readers)

    the ones who claim that they are heavier due to alternative reasons beside food consumption/lifestyle issue, why are they offended by the idea that others may be heavier because of those two issues?
    no one has been particularly criticized by the writer of this blog. it was a statement made to the majority of the people with extra weight. majority. right. which means there are always exceptions.

    in general, there are tendencies to blame obesity toward eating/life patterns. as much as there are other reasons (medication, body build, genetics), those reasons simply are not the cause of the majority of this global obesity cases.

    as mentioned by many others, obesity is only one manifestation of collective and interconnected problems- food industry, consumer behavior, genetics, family/social changes, use of time etc., and yes, there is no proof to say that a single obese person should/could have only one or two definitive reason to explain their current state. just like heart attacks, diabetes and breast cancer.

    if one is a bit overweight from outside but has no significant health problem, then who cares? vice versa, who cares if you look good in size zero and has clogged arteries? people will always judge and you cant determine and correct others on every occasion. the real focus is on oneself-

    what is the cause of your current issue (if you were to have one) and how can you fix it?

    the writer of the blog was merely mentioning what i think is the 'common' reasons of obesity. if it is not you, dont get upset with the writer. get upset with the people who expressed those particular attitude toward you. just because you are angry with general public, it does not give you the right to pelt someone else, singled out.

    just think about how 'you,' the lost reader felt, as 'singled out' outsider in midst of 'thin' people.

    if you didnt like it, why are you doing it to another person?

    and the writer never advocated for underweight, as much as she did not advocated for overweight. everyone has their natural weight and when one is not in that range, your body will tell you. rather than paying attention to others opinions ('you are fat' as well as 'you look great because you are size zero', both are ridiculous), lets take the effort to see where oneself is and how one may solve that problem.

    if you need, eat more.
    if you need, eat less. simple.
    if eating will not change your current state, look into other things in your life.
    as things do happen with some sort of explanation. once you have an explanation and once you believe in it, take an action to change the situation.

    simple? yes. difficult? yes.
    as body size and actual state of health are not interdependent qualities,
    simple and easy is not necessarily the coo-existing condition.

    keep up the great work ms. q. there are people who really appreciate your work. and as those people exist, there always be people who will be negative towards your work. the only thing we could hope for is individual reactions, based on responsible reasonings. and we can only believe in the honesty and effort of every individual.

  30. I'm a 15 year old girl and I'd like to shed light on an issue that no one seems to be covering. I realize that the theme-du-jour is striking a nerve, so I think I'll do just that. I can tell you all quite honestly that if adults stopped making such a huge deal about weight, I wouldn't have developed an eating disorder which I am still struggling with to this day. Gaining the weight back has been a harder and much more draining process than losing it was. All around me there are people saying that kids these days are too fat, and it makes me second guess every decision I make concerning food. I didn't eat thanksgiving dinner this year because I was afraid of the fatty carbs and meat. I'll never forgive myself for the hurt I inflicted on my mother who toiled endlessly over preparing that meal. But what's worse is that I'll always remember the silly feeling of satisfaction I experienced when I saw I had dropped another pound that weekend.

    So while child obesity is a relevant and dangerous issue in our nation, I strongly encourage you to tone down the Apocalypse Now approach. It isn't easy for kids to open the style section saturday morning and see Michelle Obama's frown of disaproval as we eat our breakfast. It isn't easy watching Jamie Oliver on TV tell us that we shouldn't eat what our school gives us (packing "healthy" lunches only added to my problem whereas my friend who still eats pizza on fridays has a curvy figure to die for). It's not easy to log on and read all these blogs about how I'm going to die early if I don't play a sport. I don't enjoy sports, but I feel pressured to participate in them frequently. The way I see it, kids are split into two categories on this issue: those who are blissfully unaware and those who are overly informed and paranoid.

    This comment is not directed at you personally, but I thought it might be helpful as food for thought.

    Happy Blogging

  31. I agree with the comment above mine. It seems like all of you are jabbering like spring birds because this is the issue of the moment. You're all a bunch of muckrakers because NONE of you are taking action, merely whining about a problem that has existed for so long it is old hat.

    The do or die approach the privileged white whine set is getting really old because again, what have any of you done to actually reform this? Nothing. It's one thing to sit here behind a computer and cry "OH WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!?!?!" but another to do something.

    Go to a school board meeting in your town (yes, even if you do not have kids) and raise this issue. Volunteer to lead a class on healthy eating (I teach after school cooking classes at a shelter AND at a middle school), volunteer to plant a garden…just DO SOMETHING instead of feeding this narcissist's ego.

  32. At 36 years old, I've always been told I'm fat. By my friends, by my foes, and by my family. Yet no one ever told me how not to be fat. They continued to buy me the processed food, they continued to take me out to eat. It was like having a broken arm and no one taking me to the ER.
    In addition to that, all the emotional abuse just drove me farther into the bag of chips, tub of ice cream, into the shell of protection that I found and still do find in food.
    No one taught me any different. So now I have to teach myself. Each Weight Watcher's meeting at a time, I'm teaching myself to be healthy. 36 years after the fact that my parents abdicated that job.
    These kids today are overweight because their parents and loved ones turned their heads as they continued to hand them a cookie, a DS, or a free pass to be the sloth that many kids today are.
    If we want our children to be healthy, we need to show them how to be healthy. We lead the, they lead the world.

  33. 15 yr old anonymous, you have great insight for someone so young! As I read your quote I thought about how the real dieting crazes were coming to fruition when I was a child. Is it any wonder that that was immediately followed by Americans getting fatter? We already know that shaming people doesn't work. We already know that focusing on how a person looks cannot in fact tell us anything about their health.
    In all the hullaballu over obesity we are seeing EDs rise, including obesity related eating disorders. It's horrifying the way our society treats the overweight and no child would want to grow up to be treated that way, just like you are now struggling.
    I have three young daughters and my biggest worry for them is that they will base their worth on how they look. It's so terribly sad that this is accepted and encouraged by even our government officials.

  34. To Jennifer:

    Just because we are talking here does not mean we aren't also doing something about it. I understand (and agree with) your point that complaining isn't enough, but your comment was fairly aggressive for having no way of knowing how active or inactive any one of these people are socially/politically.

    And further, what if one person's complaining (even if they aren't "doing anything about it") inspires another person to do something? Was it then still a waste?

  35. I think that you are exactly right that this country needs to focus on all of our citizens and their health.

    My mother went to college when I was a young child. She (a very large woman) and one of her friends (a very thin woman) got their cholesterol checked at a free clinic where students were learning to draw blood for this test and conduct the test. The teacher was convinced the student who was running the tests because the results said that the thin woman's "bad" cholesterol was through the roof and the fat woman's "bad" cholesterol was well below normal rates. They weren't switched, the fat woman was just eating much healthier than the thin woman.

  36. My daughter Mackenzie has a genetic disorder known as Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). PWS is sometimes refered to as the childhood obesity disorder. Due to low muscle tone and a very slow metabolism, they generally hit obesity very fast. They have an insatiable need to eat. Their hypothalimus(sp) fails to function properly and they always feel hungry. Without strict parental supervision, they would eat until their stomach explodes. They have no vomit reflex.

    That said, even with locking up food and watching them, they end up obese. I have since learned not to pass judgement on people who are obese. We may not know the reason for their obesity. My daughter will probably be over weight all her life and may even be obese. I will make sure she gets exercise and healthy food but there are no gaurantees. Things are just sometimes out of peoples control.

    I don't think we have any right to pass judgement on people we don't know. I wish people would be more sensitive sometimes and understand that even doing all of the right things does not ensure you will be at your ideal weight. It does not ensure you will not be over weight. Please remember that you should not judge a book by its cover. (sorry to be cliche')

  37. I just posted and then I read "Framing Obesity". I think that the problem is as you stated that it may be that all children are not receiving the same amount of nutitious food. At the same time, I think that as I posted a few mins ago, it is not good to judge. Some kids may not get enough of the "good nutrients" due to financial contraints or lack of understanding. I think there are a lot of unknown variables and things may be too complex to be corrected by our speculations.

  38. I agree with the idea that we should be talking about health, not the size of a person's body. As others have said, there are plenty of people who are thin and look "in shape" but are sick on the inside. And then people who are fat but are healthy. All the focus is on the fat but it *should* be on encouraging everyone to have a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and a healthy diet is good for everyone, even if you are genetically predisposed to being thin and can "get away" with eating take-out and fast food every day.

    I also have to say there are a lot of unhealthy ways to lose weight. When the focus is all on the fat, people do things like take speed or eat 800 calorie a day diets. A friend of mine took up smoking and lost a lot of weight. Hey, she's thin now, so that's healthy, right?

    Seriously, we should be talking about health, not obesity. Healthy meals and exercise for *all* kids, not just the overweight ones.

  39. I am appalled at what is being served to kids today at school. Lunches weren't that great when I was in school, but they were definitely not as bad as what I've seen you post. It all looks like it's nearly all prepackaged microwaveable junk. That cannot be healthy.

    I don't have children yet, but since reading your blog I became curious about what is offered at the local schools. I found out that here in Oregon where I live the schools have fairly healthy options. They offer unlimited fruit and veggie bars every day and twice a month they offer lunches made entirely of produce found locally.

    And to address the issue of obesity. I do understand that everyone is concerned about the health of this nations children, but putting the focus on weight isn't doing anyone a favor. I grew up an overweight kid. It was not because I ate too much or didn't exercise, I was just heavier than most kids my age. The school actually had a conference with my mother when I was in 8th grade and told her I was too fat. (Although I was healthy and played several sports) They encouraged her to put me on a diet. She did and I lost 20 pounds, but I was also more tired than normal and became ill more frequently. Why? Because all I was eating was vegetables and fruits. My body needed more substance. As soon as I was off the diet I gained the weight back and I felt better. But because of so much focus being put on being thin, I was terrorized by my classmates for being overweight, my mom kept putting me on diets, and eventually I became anorexic. It took years of therapy to undo the damage and regain a healthy relationship with food. I think it would be better to put the focus on teaching kids what foods are healthy and teaching them that exercise can be fun. Weight is just a number and no two people are built the same way. I learned as long as I feel healthy, I'm just fine regardless of what the scale says.

  40. Google anorexia and see what being focused on people's weight causes people to do. It's entirely frightening and sickening to know that we as a culture are perpetuating the illusion that thin is better.

  41. I was an overweight preteen. I went on a diet, which developed into an eating disorder, which I have been struggling with for the last seven years. I think no child should EVER be put on a diet, especially if they are growing and in need of nutrients. This is why I think the focus should be on whether or not kids are getting adequate nutrition (you can obviously get massive amounts of calories that have no real nutrients) than on whether they are eating too many calories.

  42. I completely agree that we should not be focusing on how much people weight and what they "should" look like and instead focus on their health. However with that being said, someone who is obese is not healthy. My father in-law is a perfect example of someone who has been obese his whole life and kept getting a "clean bill of health" from his doctors. For years he would go in for a physical and they would tell him nothing was wrong except he needed to lose about 100 pounds. In his mind he was "healthy" just overweight. He is turning 50 this year and it is sadly now catching up with him. He takes about 10 pills a day for various health problems and has some MAJOR problems with his health. Unfortunately he now is having an extremely hard time changing the habits he has had for the last 50 years such as over eating, eating processed fried fast food and not being active.
    My point when people are obese it leads to the problems that are costing our nation staggering amounts in health care each year. I know that if he would have been educated as a child and had parents who knew about how to eat better and the consequences of his choices he would be in a different situation today. I love what you are doing here Mrs. Q, keep up the great work!!!!

  43. I have a daughter who is just 4, but who is naturally just very tall and very sturdy. (She was adopted, and takes after her bio mom, who is also very tall and strong.) She has been off the charts for height and weight at almost every single doctor's visit since she was born – I think once she was maybe only at 95%.

    I'm doing my best to raise her with a healthy outlook towards food and exercise. She loves candy and cookies, of course, but knows that they are "sometimes" treats. At dinner time, she may be hesitant towards a food, but if we tell her it's healthy, she'll at least try it – and usually love it.

    I myself am overweight and am working to lose the excess. It's a careful balancing act because I want to share the ideas of exercise and healthy living with my daughter, who will probably have to stay very conscious of that through her life also – but I don't want to make her paranoid about every having a treat or help steer her into eating disorders.

    She helps me grocery shop and prepare dinner sometimes, so we try to keep it all a positive thing. Instead of saying "Mommy is fat and needs to lose weight," I will say something like "Mommy is working with her doctor to eat healthier and to get more exercise so that I can be around to annoy you for a long, long time." We often go eat lunch out on Fridays, and her favorite place is super-unhealthy. It's a "sometimes" place, so if we can't justify it that week, she is integral in "helping Mommy make a good choice" and picking out something better for us. I try really hard to keep her attitude towards food somewhat neutral – it's not a reward, but we can still have fun with it. Eat mostly healthfully, and we can go eat that greasy cheesesteak once in a while. Be proud that you are tall and strong and healthy and a great gymnast (which she is), and maybe when the day comes when she's peer pressured for not being tiny and petite, she'll be healthy enough in body AND mind to stay that way. I can only hope.

  44. Such a difficult topic. I used to be a skinny unhealthy person. Then my age caught up to me, and I started turning into an overweight unhealthy person.

    After my weight loss, I found myself judging overweight strangers in my own mind, and it really bothered me. What I've started doing is, when I catch myself doing that, I imagine that the person I'm looking at is 30 pounds lighter than they were a few months ago. It works, every time.

    There's another blog I read called "It's Not about Nutrition." In that blog, the author discusses how it's not about the nutritional quality of the foods, but the eating habits. I have learned so much from reading her blog.

    For the person critical of children spitting out food and talking about the one-bite rule…not all children are the same. My daughter is not on the Autism spectrum, but she did have issues with textures. I tried the one-bite rule MANY MANY times and found that it had the opposite effect. She never liked anything I forced her to eat. In fact, she would gag and sometimes even vomit if forced to eat a tiny (microscopic, even) bite of something she'd decided she wouldn't like.

    She's now 7, and we still struggle with getting her to try new foods, but we find positive approaches work better than forced ones. In the end, she eats healthier than nearly all of her friends, so I try not to get too uptight about her food issues. The best thing is not to offer the foods you don't want them to eat, and let them choose from among the foods you're comfortable with them eating. Whatever they choose – accept it.

    As a parent, I am sometimes just at a loss as to how to address some of the difficult issues facing our children and what we teach them about food. They learn from us, but also from their school, their friends, their friends' parents, TV commercials, etc. I try to buy whole natural foods, but the selection in the grocery store is sometimes sorely lacking!

    Sometimes I'm forced to choose between my child having a great experience (time with relatives, a sport activity, etc.) and having healthy eating habits – because she will be provided with unhealthy snacks while at these events. We try to make it balance out with healthy eating the rest of the time, but that's not always easy.

    I just think there's so much more we have to learn about how to do this right – criticizing obese people, or parents of obese children, or working parents, etc. is not going to help them improve.

    Look at Jamie Oliver. When he went to help that family in town, he never once said something that was accusatory. He was empathetic and helpful. And the response he got was positive. THAT'S the way to help people. Love them, don't judge them.

  45. I was always a very active child(up until about 5th grade) yet kept packing on the pounds. Other kids started making fun of me and my mother started getting concerned as early as kindergarten yet I was still a very chunky child. The school "interventions" only made this worse. Instead of encouraging me to stay active they told me that I was too fat to participate in competitive sports and so it went downhill from there. School lunches are a whole other topic I'd like to discuss. Although I considered them quite tasty at the time, they were utterly unfilling. My mother actually chose to sign my brother and I up for the reduced price school lunches because as a single low income parent she believed they would be more "healthy" than her homemade lunches. How could she have known that tater tots and a slice of pizza or corn dog weren't nearly as filling as her peanut butter sandwich and a pear.
    Now years later I only wonder how other metabolically "lucky" kids weren't starved to death on this stuff. If as a fat kid with a slow metabolism I didn't feel full I can only imagine that they must have been ravenous by the time school let out.

  46. People will take the infamous comment how they want. As a counselor and teacher I see a nation of children who do not take responsibility for their behaviors. Granted, they don't always have the best role models. When children see me for a therapy session, it usually has more to do with the way the parents are parenting, but I work with the child to learn how to cope with those parents and to take responsibility for their behavior. I think the same can be said about dieting. Parents are not always going to be the best role models so we need to arm children with tools for healthier living, with or without their parent's help.

  47. Obesity is a sensitive subject. But, this being a blog about nutrition, food, and addressing a major issue currently there is bound to be a thorn or two. It is nice to address the sensitivity of the subject.
    Obesity is dangerous. Being overweight is on the way to being dangerous. There are health problems related with being overweight (heart issues, diabetes, back, hip and leg problems).
    I think the focus should NOT be on attacking obesity and attacking "fat" but on nutrition, on building healthy habits and understanding what is a good haul from the grocery store. There should also be a focus on just getting up, getting out and walking, maybe jogging, or throwing a stick for Fido, maybe taking junior for a romp in the playground, for an hour or two once or twice a week. Small steps are better than no steps at all.
    The fight for good health, good habits is a slow fight because change is scary and sometimes hard. Rearranging a schedule is hard to do. Weaning off of sugar is hard, its like a drug. Getting over sticker shock is difficult, too.
    We, as a nation, are very sensitive about "fat". Some people do not have the resources to eat whole grains, organic foods, fresh fruit and vegetables. All of those things cost a good amount of money. There is sticker shock involved in buying healthy foods. Mothers are always conscious of what they are buying at the grocery store if they are on a budget, and they watch how much food leaves the cupboard and refrigerator like a hawk.
    Produce can end up stuck under the "treat" category because it costs so much up front and by statistics at least a third of it goes to waste. It either rots before it is eaten or it rots after being half eaten and thrown in the fridge and forgotten.
    I did the math (and actively practice this) and in the long run produce is cheaper. Fresh food is cheaper. Processed foods lack fiber to make a person seem full. They lack protein to maintain a long run of good energy. People eat more of the processed foods because they are hungry more often than when they eat whole, fresh foods. A fruit cup costs roughly $4 for a set of 4 or 6, and lasts maybe 3 days. 3 pounds of red delicious apples costs about $6 dollars and lasts at least three times as many days.
    Now for exercise. I know from personal struggles that fitting exercise in daily or even weekly is nearly impossible. Between working, errand running, volunteering my time at the animal shelter, and chores I have no time for anything else but sleep. I can't imagine how hard it is for working parents to fit exercise in between work, kids, errands, chores and possibly a pet or two.
    When people attack us for something we feel we cannot change, we get defensive. we will get especially mad if we know that the attacker is probably sacrificing something or is privileged in a way in order to be able to look down from a high horse.
    I worked for a large retailer for awhile and saw plenty of families on foodstamps buying processed foods. I would cringe, but I sympathized, too. That card is a limited amount of money for something that is very important to a family, and the head of the shopping list is going to get the most for the least at the time of purchase. Quantity is more impressive than quality at first glance, especially if you are an overworked mother with a toddler, an infant and a school aged child in tow.
    Its hard to change, its hard to accept that sometimes something has to change. We don't like being confronted when we believe we aren't doing anything wrong. But I think it is time that we really target and being to change habits.

  48. This is my first time posting, and I would like to give a little insight because I think I have a unique perspective being a biochemist. It is utterly true that obesity will cause health problems. There are no if, ands, or buts about it. At the very least, all the extra weight takes its toll on your joints. This is also true with atheletes that often have repetitive injuries and joint problems later in life due to the excessive wear and tear they put on their bodies. One thing I do think is underappreciated, however, is the risk of being too thin. Even the low end of normal for your body size or even slightly underweight has some serious consequences in old age especially. Those that are of low muscle mass, and generally appear very thin, are more likely to be sarcopenic and risk osteopenia in old age. Sarcopenia is an age-related condition that is a breakdown of muscle integrity. The muscle fibers become less effective and "marbled" or infiltrated with fat fibers. In severe cases this leads to loss of independence and mobility for the elderly. There is one common thread with every outcome, and that is not educating Americans (adults or children) about food, their bodies, and basic nutritional biochemistry.

    What are these health classes teaching? Oh, I forgot, health has been cut in many school curriculums. What could the PE teachers be teaching? Wait, PE has also been cut. It is essential we use PE and health classes as tools not only to give kids time to work off some steam, but as an opportunity to understand what is going on with their bodies. It is much less important to me that someone be tested on the rules of football in a PE class than be tested on things like "what is a carbohydrate? What is a fat? What is the difference between simple/complex carbohydrates and saturated/unsaturated fats?" Take these kids on a fieldtrip to a pathologist to look at atherosclerotic aortas. Help them draw links between the saturated fats and how they can pack together so tightly which is why they are solids at room temp, like butter, and those spongy, rough, rubbery, discolored lesions on the aorta they are looking at. The sad reality is we are nutritionally and educationally robbing not only our children, but ourselves. It would be interesting to show children organs from diseased individuals and then slides of people with similar body types as the diseased individual and have them guess which one the diseased organ came from. This would be a good tool to show kids that what you put in doesn't always show up on the outside, but if we could look inside people we would find fat, thin, and everything in between with many diseased tissues. We need to do away with these outdated BMI charts and inform kids of different methods of really seeing what you are made of. Take them to a research hospital or show videos of DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptomitry) and immersion techniques for determining body makeup. The reality is muscular atheletes live better when they are young and old than the overweight and underweight. The other reality is that atheletes of today (even runners excepting long-distance) will score overly high on BMI charts and come up as overweight. Those charts were created when nutrition was not understood and people could not obtain the muscle tone they can today. I could go on all day about nutrition and the implications. It's really interesting, and important stuff that we need to make sure kids at least have basic, functional knowledge of much as we expect them to be able to do basic arithmatic, writing, and reading.

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